Tuesday, August 17, 2010

State government jobs update!

A few posts ago, during Scammed Hard's Federal Jobs Update, some folks claimed that the analysis was a little misleading, and that students shouldn't write off government work as "impossible." Despite there being only 332 federal government attorney positions open, for a class of some 45,000 3Ls, the law school cheerleaders made sure to tell us that all is not lost. State and local governments can still provide one of those hallowed public-sector jobs for the thousands of desperate law grads out there!

From my old Minnesota home, we have this sad story about the horrible state of local public defenders' offices. This is merely the latest in a slew of reports about how quality and court access have suffered due to (what else) budget cuts. Yes, like the decimated private sector, local governments are tightening their belts and cutting way, way back. And it's not just big, bloated states like California, New York, or New Jersey that are leading the pack. Minnesota Lawyer has steadily been reporting that clerkship funding is in question, many county courthouses can't afford to remain open a full business day, and that things are only going to get worse. What's one thing that the state is not going to want to do, at a time when they can barely keep the lights on? Hire a new crop of rookie attorneys.

Hey, at least it's not as bad as in New Jersey or California, where law graduates are asked to commit to volunteering for local and state government offices for 6-12 months, unpaid, with no offer of full-time employment. (They're compensated with the valuable experience, you know!) The worst part is that these work-for-free scams report that they're positively flush with applicants.

I'm sure that Minnesota court administrators will want to consider the old work-for-free stopgap that seems to be working so well for other states. What with four local law schools (three of which are middling TTTs) and 1,000 new grads every year, there has always been a surplus of desperate, unemployed attorneys here. What better way to solve the state's court and legal services crises than "the California method?" Although, having gone to school here, I can attest that many state government offices already make use of low-paid (or more commonly unpaid) student and graduate workers to hack away at their massive backlog of legal work.

Prospective students, continue to take heed. Did you go to law school with dreams of working for free, indefinitely? To carry that $100,000+ in red ink around for six months, a year, or more, plugging away at a volunteer position which is happy to have your free labor, but will never offer you a cent in wages? Yes, the law truly is one of the most glittering and prestigious of professions.


  1. It's not just the attorney jobs, it's tough getting a federal government non-attorney job. They have something like 1k applicants for each opening, and they require an extremely specific resume, as well as usually writing KSAs or filling out 100 or so multiple choice questions.

    It takes several hours to fill out a typical federal government job application. Even if you did this every day for weeks without going crazy, there is a high likelihood you never get an interview.

    Some people do report success and have gotten positions from usajobs, but a lot more people seem to not have luck with it.

  2. I know some people who (surprisingly) have had luck landing federal jobs, but it involved going to places that were really out of the way. As desperate as many people are for jobs, many aren't in a position to pick up and move to an out of the way place. If you're in between relationships and can function with living in an area that only has one movie theater (or in Guam), I'd expand my search to those areas.

  3. Did those people have the specific experience usajobs is usually looking for? I mean I guess we're supposed to just lie or something, but it always seems like you need 10 years of experience doing something very specific to get an entry level job on usajobs. I don't know how you'd get that top rating without having done the same job already.

    The educational substitution never seemed to help me any. Even when I think I have everything on point, and get a 95 rating, I usually won't get referred.

    I too have heard though that people get these jobs without experience. I just haven't met anyone personally that has had the success in the past 2 years. I know some people that got their fed jobs several years ago, but most of them had several years of exp too.

  4. @6:52: It's amazing how many "entry level" jobs require years of experience. On the ABA Jobs Board there are three "entry level" positions listed.

    One requires 5+ years of experience, one requires 1-3 years, but the third requires only a high school diploma.

    When people say you can do anything with a law degree, it's like saying you can travel anywhere with an engine. Just look at how fast cars go, they have engines, and even jet planes and space ships have engines!

    What they don't tell you is that before you get moving, you're also going to need some wheels, and that while you're trying to find them, you're going to get passed by the kids on skateboards and bikes.

  5. Yes, "entry" level attorney jobs in fed govt require years of experience, especially these days. If you are a new grad in this market, I would likely avoid usajobs unless you are applying to one of the honors programs or others specifically designed for students.

    Some new attorneys have recently arrived at the "entry" level, out of school for about 5-8 years. Now why would anyone take an entry level job with years of experience? Because you can move up the GS scale quickly in the short term. If you stay long term and max out in the low $100s, that's really not bad for a true 40 hour week of respectable work + security and benefits.

  6. I had several years of work experience and graduate degrees in a technical field long before law school, and I tried USAJobs for several entry positions were I was arguably a reasonable candidate. This one not a shotgun approach, but a carefully chosen (hey, I could ABSOLUTELY talk this one up in an inteview) sort of situation.

    I started filling out the forms, and invariably I ran into questions like "How many years experience do you have with 42-b.567 subsection A assement reviews and Mytzlplik determinations?", and, of course, would check "zero". Again, these were entry level, but my background and experience would more that allow me to capably learn and handle these things on the job.

    After having to call up the intervier for intially being rejected for not being a liscensed attorney ("Oops! Our mistake!"), I was then rejected for not having the very expierence that one would obtain on the job at an entry level position, per the Mytzlplik requirement. Catch-22 bull$h!t whatever.

    Good luck, y'all. Make sure you have your family connections in place (like the other people I know who got the same position through USAjobs).

  7. I graduated in 2006, with my JD, passed the bar, along with having a masters degree in criminology. I applied for 372 jobs on USAJOBS before finally getting an entry level position. Do they exist? Yes. However, (and this is in no means demeaning the military) the biggest hurdle I ran into was veterans. By federal law, if a veteran applies for the same job as you, regardless of education, experience, etc, they are automatically hired. I had at least 15 calls from hiring authorities stating "Well, we'd like to hire you, but there is a vet in front of you". My suggestion, join the military for 2 years (I was 40 when I graduated, so i couldn't) and then find a job. It'll be cake. Keep applying!

  8. @11:22

    Great point. As one non-trad to another, glad things ultimately worked out!

  9. I once gave up on applying for federal attorney jobs because, you're right. "Entry level" most of the time actually means 10+ years of experience because they need people who can draft detailed contracts, or everybody wants to work for the Department of Justice in major cities and they can easily get their pick of people who worked in the district attorney's office. But let's just say that immigration courts in the middle of Kansas are not going to be overrun with applications from top candidates. People who already have 10 years of experience would see it as a step back to move out to the middle of nowhere to do a job where all you are doing is kicking people out of the country all day long.

  10. My mom seriously suggested I just find a job doing procurement work for the Army on USAJobs. Her company (a NASA contractor) just laid off like 60% of its people and she still thinks all you have to do is just "get a job," like it's some sort of simple click-the-box process.

  11. I'm an unemployed 2010 T14 grad who landed a temporary flyover state government job thanks to a six-month "post-graduate fellowship" program my LS is offering to game its statistical profile. I'm expecting it to last all of six months.

    I've noted some subtle indications that this blog regards T14s as exceptions to the generally depressing conditions that afflict the legal market these days. At least in my case, that's not true. I struck out in the private sector (at local and regional firms, not V100s) and am now literally living in my mother's basement. Also, I just got married. I hope my wife is going to like food-stamp-sponsored dinners.

  12. 11:22: Military generally has a 4 year requirement, and I wouldn't say it is easy. To be honest, I can't really begrudge somebody getting that vet preference. I mean I went to 3 years of law school, while this dude gave up his freedoms, got yelled at, and had basically no real home for that same amount of time, but he did get paid. I made a stupid decision going to law school, but why should my stupid decision put me ahead of somebody that made a tough decision and stuck through it?

    You can enlist until you reach 27 I believe. Most law grads are going to have trouble with that, and the physical reqs. You get a few more years for Officer positions, but depending on the branch they are EXTREMELY competitive. Navy takes less than 10% on most fields, and even less on fields like Intelligence where they take maybe 30 people a year, and that's a generous estimate. Army takes a LOT more, but Army sucks. Coast Guard has long been for the rich and elite and well connected, I do not think the average person will have much luck with that. Air Force is also very good, and actually pretty easy compared to the other branches, but they are only looking for pilots right now.

    Oh and all of them will DQ you for a lot of physical conditions, and depending on history for other things. Not a sure bet at all.

    I would suggest trying the middle of nowhere approach. I'm not sure how many of those jobs are open, and usually Fed agencies are located in more populated areas, but who knows. People mention Kansas, so that should be a good place to check. I might try that myself.

    The other problem though of course is that...the federal government moves extremely slowly. You won't be on the job for about a year or two usually from the date you apply.

  13. @1:14. How many people in your class are in the same boat, and how many students were in your class? What percent of your school's 2010 grads got BigLaw offers, federal government positions, law school teaching jobs, or federal judicial or prestigious non-federal clerkships? I'm trying to get an accurate idea of the T14 employment situation.

  14. @10:29: I'm not sure about exact percentages, but I will say that the majority of students whom I know were, in the best case, deferred by firms. Very, very few of my acquaintances have firm start dates for this fall.

    I should note that my school falls near the bottom of the T10...things are likely better in HYSCCN land.

  15. @1:14/12:27: This is 10:29. Would you be willing to answer questions in a private forum? If so, you may contact me at the e-mail address I'm using to comment. One school I'm looking at seems to fall in the range you're talking about. Thanks a bunch!

  16. Oops, the e-mail address doesn't seem to have shown up. It is CurrentlyAnonymous12345@gmail.com

  17. @12:18/12:19: You've got mail.

  18. Welcome to the career facts site where you can learn all you wanted to know about career.

  19. The central as well as the state Government jobs openings have a number of benefits that make them a better option than that of a private working company.

  20. The other problem though of course is that...the federal government moves extremely slowly. You won't be on the job for about a year or two usually from the date you apply.;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

  21. "I should note that my school falls near the bottom of the T10...things are likely better in HYSCCN land."

    As a current HLS 3L, I'd just like to add that our job prospects are not as rosy as one might assume. While the majority of my classmates do seem to have firm jobs lined up (I'm not sure how many will have deferred start dates though), a substantial number of us are still looking for work. This is especially true of students who are interested in public sector opportunities. I also know several very intelligent and highly personable HLS Class of 2010 grads who are still looking for any kind of work.

    Considering how bleak the legal job market is, if I had it to do over again, I would not choose to attend law school at all. Back when I applied, I was fully aware that the job market for T3/T4 grads was supposedly horrendous, but even on the most depressing sites like jdunderground the posters all acted like T14 schools, and HYS in particular, were still well worth attending. This is not necessarily the case any longer. On the bright side, at least HLS has a decent low income loan repayment program in place, since it seems that many of us will likely need to take advantage of it!